A new year brings new opportunities to improve ourselves and make the world a better place. As you look through this list maybe you’ll identify with some of these suggestions. Make a resolution to implement just one or two things to make your life a little greener. You’ll be glad you did.
1. Reduce junk mail. You can reduce the amount of unsolicited advertising you get from national direct marketers by signing up with the Direct Marketing Association’s DMAChoice.org. The program allows you to indicate which types of mail you want to keep receiving and which you don’t. These programs won’t prevent mail from local businesses or mail to business addresses.
2. Use cloth napkins. Cloth napkins are nice to use. Don’t save them for special occasions. Get out those wedding gifts and use them for everyday meals. Buy a couple of packages in different colors then you can toss napkins in with any load of laundry and always have a clean supply. Put the paper towels in a cabinet so you won’t be tempted to grab them.
3. Cancel magazine subscriptions you don’t read. They’re great to read sometimes, but do you really get to read them all? Maybe you could pick one up at the grocery store occasionally rather than getting a copy of every month’s issue. And admit it, you’re never going to get around to reading that stack under your bed. Consider giving them to a nursing home, hospital or school.
4. Buy in bulk. Or at least avoid individually packaged items. You can buy sliced cheese in easy-deal bricks, pour juice into cups for your kids instead of buying drink boxes, and buy boxes of crackers and cookies instead of the snack packs.
5. Consider Habitat ReStore when remodeling. When you’re remodeling or making home improvements, consider shopping for your supplies and materials at Cedar Valley Habitat ReStore before shopping the big box stores. You’ll be saving building materials from the landfill, and you’ll be supporting a good cause. When you’re ready to dispose of the things you’ve replaced, check to see if ReStore can use these items as donations. Find a list of items they will and won’t accept at their website.
6. Buy longer-lasting, non-disposable items. When you buy, think ahead. How much are you going to have to throw away when you’re done with it? Buy reusable or refillable rather than disposable. Be willing to pay a few bucks more for higher quality durable goods. A higher-priced, higher-quality piece of furniture is more likely to last longer for you, more likely to be usable by someone else later, and will stay out of the landfill longer.
7. Rent or borrow tools and equipment. You can save money, space in your garage and space in the landfill later if you rent or borrow tools rather than purchase them. The Matthew 25 Tool Library in Cedar Rapids has a large selection of hand tools, power tools, lawn and garden and home improvement tools for lending out. Memberships are available by the month or annually. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I serve on the board for this excellent organization and know first-hand how valuable this resource this is for our community. While tool libraries are growing in popularity, they’re not available in every community. Check out your local hardware stores to see if the equipment you need is availble for rent, or ask your neighbors.
8. Buy fresh instead of packaged. Even better, buy local fresh foods. These come with little or no packaging compared to the frozen or canned alternatives. Youll be healthier for it, and so will the earth.
9. Compost or recycle instead of throwing away. Check your local recycling guidelines. They change occasionally. Some of the things that were not recyclable in your community previously may be recyclable now. Several compostable materials can be included in your yard waste container too. In Cedar Rapids things like fruit and vegetable peelings, and used paper plates and paper towels can be included in your Yardy bin. Keep a small tub under your sink and use it to collect food waste while preparing meals. When you’re finished, take them out to your Yardy.
10. Gift giving. When giving gifts to your loved ones, show your love for Mother Earth as well. Invite them over for a meal or take them to a local restaurant. Fix them some sweet treats packaged in a reusable basket or other container. Buy them a plant they can care for inside or plant in their garden. Give them a coupon for services. Offer to clean their home, wash their car or babysit their kids. If your gift requires wrapping, use newspaper, cloth bags or baskets instead of wrapping paper.
A few small changes will make a big difference for our planet. And you’ll discover that many of these suggestions are much more enjoyable than the alternative. Look for opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle in everything you do.